Most adults fail to learn a foreign language no matter how many years they sit in a classroom or live where the language is spoken because they spend nearly all of their study time learning “about” their target language instead of the language itself. This is the critical difference between “studying” and “learning”.
With 11 languages under his belt, Steve Kaufmann is an extremely accomplished language learner. His extensive language learning wisdom in shared in his book titled The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey and his online language learning system called LingQ. In the interview, we discuss what Steve believes to be the 7 most common misconceptions about language learning, how to learn Mandarin effectively, and the role of a good teacher.
In this interview with Antonio Graceffo, he “pulls no punches” (pun intended) when sharing his views on how to learn a foreign language effectively. His language learning wisdom stems from formal training as an interpreter and translator at Germany’s prestigious University of Mainz, coupled with over a decade of living, learning, and working in South and East Asia.
The term “Multiple Intelligences” was first coined by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. His theory is spelled out in the 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In the book, Gardner posits that humans possess many varied types of intelligence, not just one. This stands in stark contrast to IQ and standardized testing, both of which look at intelligence as a one-dimensional concept: you either have it or you don’t. While Gardners’s work is still somewhat controversial, I think it is a helpful way to frame intelligence and useful tool for choosing effective language learning methods and materials for oneself.
Michael Heim (1943-2012) was a highly respected professor of Slavic languages at UCLA. He spoke 10 languages (though he claimed that the number is hard to tie down due to the slippery political nature of language-dialect distinctions). Heim believed that effective language learning must begin (and progress) with a specific purpose in mind; he never learned a language just for the heck of it.